BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Former Alcohol and Tobacco Control Commissioner Murphy Painter was found not guilty on 29 federal counts of computer fraud and making false statements.
The jury reached the unanimous decision after deliberating more than seven hours Thursday evening and Friday morning. The verdict was announced shortly after noon. Painter, 59, was accused of using the Voyager database to perform illegal background checks on hundreds of people, mainly women.
"Someone in the position of authority made an absolute wrong, unjust decision to prosecute this man," said Michael Fawer, Painter's lead defense attorney.
Painter walked out of federal court as a free man and with his mother at his side. A 12-person jury found the former commissioner of the ATC not guilty on all charges.
"I kind of thought, was worried, the system was broken, very badly broken," Painter said outside the courthouse. "But at least this shows there is some justice in the world."
"No, no ma'am, never, because he was raised not to do these things," Painter's mother responded when asked if she ever thought her son was guilty.
"I help people and I'm still going to continue to help people in any function I can, whether it be in public service or regular service," Painter answered when questioned if he could go back and do it all over again, would he do any of those searches.
Painter said he has to regroup as to what's next for him. Meanwhile, Fawer reiterated claims he made in his closing arguments that the governor's office is behind Painter's termination. He had more harsh words for the state after the not guilty verdict.
"I will never understand why this case saw the light of day. It was truly an embarrassment to the system. There are things you prosecute and there are things you don't," Fawer said.
US Attorney Walt Green said he is proud of his prosecuting team, regardless the outcome of the trial.
"We respect the jury's decision," Green said on the courthouse steps. "This is part of our process. We brought charges we believed in. I thought the trial was well done by our team. These are tough types of cases that we have to bring. You have a public official and you have victims' accusations and these types of cases, we will continue to bring in the future."
The trial lasted nearly two weeks.
Earlier in the trial, Judge James Brady threw out the three aggravated identity theft charges against Painter, saying the case at hand does not fall within that specific statute.
Painter was accused of using the Voyager database to perform illegal background checks on hundreds of people, mainly women.
The indictment alleged Painter made false statements to FBI agents and used law enforcement databases for "non-official criminal justice purposes."